In my previous two articles, I spoke about our conflict with others in this world and the conflict we face within ourselves. The third arena of conflict we enter into in this life, the one we talk about the least but is the most difficult, is our conflict with God. No one likes to admit they are having a conflict with God. Therefore, it is usually a private matter.
This type of conflict is tolerated, even expected, in children. It is a known fact that C.S. Lewis, as a nine year old boy, turned his back on Christianity because God did not hear his prayers to heal his sick mother, and subsequently, she died. We can all sympathize with a nine year old’s pain. But when this type of conflict happens in mature adults, due to illness, bereavement or worse, we tend to be a little less sympathetic.
No one likes being in conflict with God, nor does it seem “right.” But from time to time, it happens. Job experienced it. Moses experienced it. Paul experienced it. It is no wonder you and I will experience it as well. In fact, most of the Psalms were written in an attempt to articulate what it feels like to be in conflict with God. “Why are you so far from me?” the writer in Psalm 22 asks. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord,” we read in Psalm 10, and “How long will you hide Your face from me?” we hear in Psalm 13.
There it is. Right there in the Scriptures: Conflict with God. Surely God understands. Surely God knows what we are feeling and how to help us work through our grief.
First of all we must ask, What does it mean to have a conflict with God? Here it is in a nutshell: although God is perfect, our understanding of His perfection is not. Therefore, from time to time, we conflict with Him. The problem is entirely ours, not His. Our understanding of His ways is very flawed, and very biased in favour of our comfort. The resolution of our conflict comes when we resolve to trust Him despite our misunderstanding.
Take Job for an example. Did he understand why all his children had died? Did he know Satan had challenged God, taking away Job’s wealth and health and joy of living? No, he understood none of these things. He was in the dark. Never is he told that Satan had challenged God to a duel. Like Job, you and I may never know the reason for our suffering either.
In the end, the only thing Job had left was raw trust in the wisdom and goodness of God. At first, he had passed the test: “the Lord gave and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” (Job 2:21). But as time wore on, and things grew worse, Job began to grow bitter and discouraged and began demanding an explanation. Our Lord never did explain Himself. Instead, He challenged Job to question his own understanding of God’s character.
Trust his heart
And therein lay the answer. When we are in conflict with God, and when we do not understand what we are going through, it is time to rely on the good and wise character of God’s nature. We must not demand an explanation. God does not report to us. When things are bad we must distrust our eyes and heart and declare, by faith, that God is good. When things are backwards and broken and befuddled, we must doubt our minds – our own understanding – and lean on the fact that He is wise.There is no other way. And through it all, God will be glorified.
I am reminded of a song by Babbie Mason that contains the truth of this conflict we have with God and its resolution:
“God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His heart.
He sees the master plan
And He holds our future in His hand
So don’t live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him.”
The priceless value of conflict with God is that it expands and deepens, even pioneers, the exploration of our knowledge of Him. Because our feet can no longer touch the bottom, because we are left to grope and flounder in the dark, we are forced to seek again how really deep He is. What feels like drowning actually ends up deepening our experience with Him. Out in the deep, lost in the place where we have never been before, is often the very place where we learn those aspects of His grace, tenderness, and wisdom which we have never known before – and never could have known, had we not passed through what we did.